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THEY might not be the prettiest insects around (surely those are butterflies and bumblebees?)but ants are a fantastic addition to any wildlife garden.

And as the tiny creatures are currently at their most active and noticeable, the RSPB is asking householders and gardeners to be sympathetic to what are actually fascinating, clever insects.

The wildlife charity says that ants should be left alone where possible, as birds like wrens, robins and sparrows will welcome them as a snack.

Ants help plants by suppressing other insects that eat them, by carrying seeds to new areas and by aerating soil. Lots of invertebrates depend on ants for food or shelter.

Some butterflies attract ants to their caterpillars, where the ants guard them inside the ant nest, and some woodlice live only in ant nests.

Flying ants are also beneficial to the garden and other creatures.

The warm temperatures and damp conditions are building towards the annual flying ant swarm when black garden ants emerge in their millions to mate, but the weather conditions have to be just right. They provide food for starlings, gulls, house martins and swifts and help the birds to prepare for the journey to Africa, where they'll spend the winter.

Mark Gurney from the RSPB said: "Ants are farmers, workers and conquerors. They're fascinating creatures, and a vital part of the food chain. The RSPB urges people to leave them to go about their business without trying to get rid of them wherever possible."


F-ANT-ASTIC: Ants protect the eco system
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 22, 2011
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